It is two days before Christmas, 2012. The Mayan apocalypse has not occurred and there are no more excuses. I vowed to my wife last night that this time next year our boat ‘Seafire’ will be moored somewhere where palm trees grow indigenously.
This dream began thirty years ago when my then-new wife made it clear that she was not about to be persuaded of any of the joy of flight in light aircraft.
I was beginning to build a biplane which I intended to fly around the world. I rationalized that for the same amount of money and a lot less beaurocratic regulation I could own a small offshore sailboat which we could live in and leisurely travel wherever we wanted. It had been years since I had done any sailing but, with the inspiration of a friend who had built a boat in South Africa and sailed it offshore extensively, the notion was cast in stone.
Our first boat was a 21′ trailerable sloop which languished through a Northern BC interior winter. I remember checking the ice on a nearby lake on the May long weekend and deciding then that we had to move to the coast. The following spring found me bashing Northward in the late winter weather of March from Vancouver to Port Hardy. A small boat with squatting headroom and only a camp stove for comfort was a rude reaquaintance with the romance of the sea.
I beat the centerboard trunk out of the little boat on that trip. When I finally made it back south to Nanaimo, the first task was to remove the damage and design and build a permanent keel beneath the bottom of the boat. It was a huge job and if I were a sane man I would have turned my back on the sea forever but I was hooked. With memories of perfect minutes when the sea hissed past, the sails rumbled contentedly, a pod of dolphins rose and cavorted beside me and the last cold, wet, squall was now a rainbow retreating ahead of me, there was no turning back.
There have been seven more boats since. Each boat was offshore-capable. Each was a massive labor of love, intense effort and expense to refit and I never made a significant profit selling any of them. I can underline the ‘ Go simple, go now’ mantra of the fundamental sailor’s creed. At the time, there was always a good reason for my decisions but in hindsight, one only regrets what they don’t do. Go now!
All that having been said I am writing this morning for my own benefit. Today is committement day when I put a written pledge before my readers. Seafire is the eigth boat in twenty-six years. She is, incidentally, the second Seafire in my history but that is another story. She is a Downeaster 41, one of twelve motorsailors built by Downeaster Yachts in Santa Ana, California. Using their famous 38′ hull, they created a pilothouse boat with a large engine, a second helm inside, and a guest cabin, It is a perfect ‘Geezer boat’ and I intend to see a lot of palm trees through her windows as well as castles and pubs in the UK and Europe.
I’ll describe the boat and it’s refit and how I found her in future blogs. Today is the moment when I’m laying out the fleece. Despite being on the downhill side of middle-age, having some health issues and absolutely disastrous finances, the dream is alive.
Sterling Hayden once wrote that one should never begin a voyage when you can afford it. Only when you go out on limited means will you truly understand what sailing and life are really about. I know people who have sailed both with and without adequate means. Some describe their passages in miles and yet clearly have missed one passage of utmost importance. It is a distance of about six inches, the space between one ear and the other. It is the inner journey that endures over and beyond all others.
So today, I heave the lines aboard and point the bow toward the harbour mouth.